How to Conduct a Project Post-Mortem

Collegues taking notes during a business meeting.
Collegues taking notes during a business meeting. (Image: Terry Vine/Blend Images/Getty Images)

Projects come in a variety of types and sizes, but they should all end with a culminating event that identifies the merits of the effort. First, recognize the participants for their contributions, then compensate the vendors for the supplies, and conclude with a post mortem to learn from the experience and improve performance in future endeavors.

Conduct individual and team debriefing sessions. Individual meetings allow team members to share their personal impressions of the project, their contributions and challenges. Group meetings reveal insight into team dynamics, communications, performance, and recommendations for the future.

Assess the technical performance. Discuss the variation between the final scope and the initial one. Identify the sources of scope creep, defect management, change management, quality and decision making.

Discuss cost and schedule performance. Assess the variances between scheduled and actual, selection of vendors, causes of schedule slippage, accuracy of planning, monitoring methods and reporting strategies.

Analyze customer involvement. Identify whether or not the customer was sufficiently informed and active in the project. Ask if the face-to-face meetings or teleconferences were appropriate and sufficient for the type of project, size, complexity and culture. Determine if everyone felt adequately informed of problems and involved in decision making.

Document the lessons learned. Distribute them to management, noting a summary of the project’s performance and the team’s recommendations for future projects. Ascertain whether the qualitative and quantitative objectives of the project were met.

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  • “Successful Project Management”; Jack Gido and James Clemens; 1999
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